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Ecology advice and surveys in planning and development

Failure to consider ecology and biodiversity on a site can be a serious block on achieving a planning consent.

This is particularly topical at present as we are coming into the season for surveys. There is a limited window to undertake studies and failure to survey during the right season will prevent your development coming forward as quickly as you might want.

Commissioning the right initial reports and surveys is crucial to ensure that your application is not refused on technical grounds. If you do not commission the correct survey at the correct time it will potentially prevent you from being able to achieve consent, even if you have a good site from a planning point of view.

With this in mind Optimis is delighted to welcome a series of blogs from Joanne Makin, Assistant Ecologist at The Landscape Partnership with whom we work closely.

Accurate advice on the need for wildlife surveys is essential, especially for planning applications. Local Authorities will not accept an application which is deficient in wildlife information, which can cause lengthy delays. It is important that an ecological consultant provides appropriate advice for which investigations and/or surveys are needed and that a proportionate approach is recommended for any necessary mitigation.

There are various ecological services provided by consultants to inform planning and development: 

  • Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (Includes a Phase I habitat survey)
  • Protected species survey, including: Bats, Reptiles, Great Crested Newts, Breeding/ Wintering Birds, Otters, Water Voles, Badgers, Dormice, Crayfish etc.
  • Ecological Impact Assessment (EcIA), either within, or separate to, a full Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Ecological site masterplanning
  • Protected species licence applications including European Protected Species

Seasonality of Ecology Surveys

Ecological surveys are subject to seasonal constraints; a number of protected species hibernate or become less active, whilst others migrate or are only in flower/visible at certain times of the year. The timing of ecology survey work is sometimes restricted to a small window annually – usually between April and September. Therefore it is best practice to plan ecology survey in as early as possible.  The programme below gives an indication of how these constraints apply to the year calendar.

Joanne Makin, The Landscape Partnership

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